Student Culture, Trends & Issues

The Voices They Hear

shhhhParents play a powerful role in the development of their children.

Seems obvious to say, yet I think we can tend to forget this truth when we work with students on college campuses — primarily because we don’t see parents,  just students.

Sure, from time to time our students might bring their parents up in conversation. But it can be all to easy to forget that the ways in which our students think, believe, and live are without doubt a product of the ways and environments in which they were raised.

It’s true for all of our students — those who are thriving and those who are not.

As a parent myself, I often struggle to walk a that fine line between being too controlling  (knowing that their present has implications for their future), and giving them too much freedom. I desire  to find that healthy balance between being overly encouraging (as I desire to build up their self-esteem, without over inflating it), and overly critical or corrective (because I want them to learn from their mistakes — or not repeat the ones that I have made).

These are challenges that EVERY set of parents (or each single parent) face.

Parenting is tough work — without a doubt.

All of the successes and failures of any given set of parents serve to shape their children — in helpful and/or harmful ways.

And once the student leaves home, they don’t leave those influences (those voices) behind. They go with them.Peggy O'Mara quote

Somewhere along the way, these voices become the child’s inner-voice.

And that voice (or those voices) continue to reinforce the ways of thinking, believing, and living that have been developed over the course of 18 years of life.

Again — for better and for worse.

Which means that as mentors and pastoral figures in their new context — their first context away from home (for most of them) — we’re positioned to play an important role.

In some instances we can (and should) reinforce the direction our students are moving.

In other instances we may need to help our students explore the things that they’ve been taught, the things they profess, and the ways in which they live.

Some students will welcome this process — others will hate it (and potentially hate you for taking them there), at least initially.

But I’m challenged by the words of the apostle Paul when he says:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

Much like parents, we have been called to a special work — in a very formative season within the lives of our students — and we need to be faithful to do the good work that God has called us to. And some of this work will most definitely involve helping students to consider the voices they hear.

What do you think?

Have you considered this, or encountered this, as you’ve worked with students?

How do you help students to process the voices they hear?

When the voices are negative (or way too positive, such that they hinder students in negative ways), how do you address this such that it doesn’t pit student against parent(s)?